Even though 2,340 kilometers separates them, two schools will be going head to head this Wednesday in an international esports tournament. The Canadian competitors are from Archwood School in the Louis Riel School Division (LRSD) who will be taking on students from James Monroe Middle School in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on Wednesday, January 29 at 4:30 p.m.
Esports, also known as competitive gaming, has been skyrocketing in popularity over the past decade. Players, ranging from amateurs to paid professionals, compete in a variety of video games as individuals or as part of teams. What used to seen as a hobby is now the centre of attention at global tournaments that are streamed by millions of viewers and is providing youth with opportunities for networking, post-secondary scholarships and career possibilities.
Wednesday’s tournament will see five students in grades 6 to 8 at Archwood School face off in one-on-one virtual matches against their American opponents in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate on the Nintendo Switch. This will mark the first-ever organized esports tournament between middle years teams in Canada and the US.
Although esports may seem like all fun and games, Melissa Burns, a teacher at Archwood School, discovered the benefits it has on student development and decided to champion it in LRSD.
“Competitive gaming teaches students transferable skills such as troubleshooting technology, digital citizenship, critical thinking and teamwork,” said Burns. “It also helps them learn to deal with the strong emotions that can come with competitive play.”
After spending most of her maternity leave researching esports, Melissa launched Middle Years Esports Manitoba (MYEMB) in October 2019. The organization supports students in grades 6 to 8 with competitive gaming opportunities so they can experience the benefits of sport, community and skill development, regardless of physical ability. It also gives schools the resources to launch their own esports teams.
“Esports catches students that may feel out of place participating in traditional sports and validates their interests and skillsets,” said Burns. “A lot of students go home and play these games in isolation, but this gives them a safe space in our schools to create connections, feel a sense of belonging and learn about sportsmanship.”
There are currently 11 schools registered in MYEMB, seven of which are in the LRSD. The schools will compete in tournaments over the next couple of months, with it all coming to an epic end at the Provincials on March 20.
You can find additional information on esports and the league on MYEMB’s website
. Check out @MYEMB on Twitter for a link to Wednesday’s live stream of the match.